I needed to travel to Phoenix last week on business so decided to take advantage and go down the weekend before to explore around the area and do some hiking. On Saturday I drove down to Saguaro National Park, about 117 miles south of Phoenix and close to Tucson.
The park is divided into two sections, called districts, lying approximately 20 miles (32 km) east and 15 miles (24 km) west of the center of the city of Tucson, Arizona. The Tucson Mountain District (TMD) is on the west side of Tucson, and the Rincon Mountain District (RMD) to the east of the city. The park gets its name from the saguaro, a large cactus which is native to the region. Saguaros have a relatively long lifespan. They may grow their first side arm any time from 75–100 years of age, but some never grow one at all. A saguaro without arms is called a spear. Many other kinds of cactus, including barrel, cholla, and prickly pear, are abundant in the park.
I arrived in the park shortly after 8:00am and began by exploring the Desert Discovery Trail not far from the visitor center. This short trail gives you a taste of the plants, animals, and ecology of the Sonoran Desert.
Although it was still a little early for some of the blooming plants and cacti, I did find some. The bright red blooms of the Ocotillo cactus were quite pretty against the backdrop of the blue sky.
I also found some Arizona pencil cholla in bloom.
A silhouette shot of some of the saguaro cacti along the Desert Discovery Trail. Unfortunately my schedule did not permit me to stay in the park until sunset so I was unable to capture the iconic picture of the saguaro cactus silhouetted against the red orange sky of sunset so this picture will have to do for my silhouette picture!
After leaving the Desert Discovery Trail, I made a quick stop at the Red Hills Visitor Center to pick up a map before heading down the road to the Bajada Loop Drive to the Valley View Trail. This was another short hike up to a ridge with views of Avra Valley and Picacho Peak to the north.
A shot taken along the road before I arrived at the trailhead.
Taking in the views of the many saguaro cacti as I started down the trail.
From the Valley View Trail, I headed down the Bajada Wash trail.
I came across some pink flowering hedgehog cactus.
A red flowering buckhorn cholla.
I liked the symmetry of this barrel cactus with the two smaller ones on either side of the big one.
Some yellow blooming brittlebush along the trail.
It appeared to be a little early for the saguaros to be blooming but I did come across a couple that were starting to bloom. The saguaro blossom is the state wildflower of Arizona.
Woodpeckers and owls will make nests in the saguaro cactus. Here is a shot of a nest.
More shots of the saguaro along the trail.
A view from the ridge looking north to the mountains off in the distance. The cactus on the left looks like It has a smiley face on it!
More flowering cactus:
Yellow flowering prickly pear cactus.
After completing my hike in the Bajada Wash, I headed to the other side of the west park to check out another trail. A few shots along this trail.
A selfie of me with the saguaro, proof that I was here!
It was time to head back to Phoenix. A great day in Saguaro National Park. I’ll need to come back another time to catch those sunset pictures!